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With 49ers rookie minicamp around the corner, optimism for the team’s draft class is still at the fore. While minicamp won’t give us a clear picture of what each first-year player will offer in 2022, it’ll be the first time we see them respond to an NFL environment an from there the nitpicking can begin.
While selections during and immediately after the draft get picked apart, we won’t truly know the value of a pick until they see NFL action. We’re riding that optimism though and after getting a chance to dive deeper into some of the 49ers’ picks, we came up with something to be excited about with all of the nine-player draft class:
DE Drake Jackson: Upside
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Jackson’s combination of size and athleticism makes him a legitimate Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate. He’ll get plenty of opportunities to make a Dee Ford-like impact across from Nick Bosa.
RB Tyrion Davis-Price: Easy power
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“Easy power” is a baseball term that comes to mind when watching Davis-Price. There’s some elusiveness to his game to be sure, but his ability to maintain his balance and speed through contact really jumps out. Being hard to tackle makes him a logical fit in a hard-nosed 49ers offense.
WR Danny Gray: Speed
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Gray has a number of plays where he just runs away from defenders that have angles on him. Marquise Goodwin had his best year as a pro under Kyle Shanahan, and it’s easy to see Gray fitting the offense in a similar way where his pure speed changes the calculus for how defenses try to stop San Francisco.
OL Spencer Burford: Versatile athlete
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Burford may just be one of the team’s answers on the interior of the offensive line. He’s capable of playing tackle, which he did plenty of at UTSA, but seeing him get out and move in space is exciting.
CB Samuel Womack: Ball skills
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Womack was a walk-on at Toledo and by Year 3 was a full-time starter with a scholarship. His path to a starting job is inspiring, but his production makes him a fascinating addition to a 49ers secondary that doesn’t generate a ton of turnovers. Over his last three years he had 43 (!!!) pass breakups and four interceptions.
OL Nick Zakelj: Nastiness
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Zakelj is flat-out mean. He’s a big, strong offensive lineman who spent a lot of time throwing defensive ends upfield and plowing defenders through the turf as a run blocker. Chances are he’ll move inside as a pro where that nastiness will be even more of an asset. Seeing him on the move as a pulling guard will be scary for defenses.
DL Kalia Davis: Developing athlete
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Davis may wind up replacing fellow sixth-round pick DJ Jones who exited in free agency. He’s an explosive athlete who doesn’t have a ton of experience yet. If he recovers from a torn ACL and gets some reps under defensive line coach Kris Kocurek he could quickly become a regular disruptor on the interior for the 49ers.
CB Tariq Castro-Fields: Elite traits
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Consistency was a problem for Castro-Fields during his college tenure, but his physical tools are a reason to keep a very close eye on him as a pro. He is 6-1 and ran a 4.38 at the combine. There are also some plays in college where he genuinely looks like a future star at the position. The ceiling for Castro-Fields is higher than any other CB on the 49ers’ roster.
QB Brock Purdy: Consistency
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Reliability is the No. 1 key a backup quarterback can have, and Purdy’s college career defined the word from a production standpoint. He was a four-year starter who was never bad for a whole year, but never great for a whole year. His NFL ceiling isn’t particularly high, but it’s easy to see Kyle Shanahan winning some games with him if he has to start at some point.